Daniel Beaudoin

Yes, Israel’s war with Hamas is legal and moral.

A sniper of the Israeli army takes his position in the Gaza Strip.
A sniper of the Israeli army takes his position in the Gaza Strip.

Since Israel’s retaliation for the Hamas massacre of October 7, 2023, Israel is often portrayed as a gross violator of the laws of armed conflict, morally corrupt as it demonstrates a wanton disregard for the lives of innocents, and vengeful in its motivations. Human rights organizations call for formal investigations for war crimes committed by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and others claim that the toll being inflicted on the vast majority of innocent Palestinians is disproportionate and unjust.

This criticism is largely unfounded. Israel is legally, and morally, justified – and even has an obligation to the citizens for whom it is responsible – to  act in such a way that ensures that Hamas cannot continue attacking the country or threaten its security.

Moreover, the IDF distinguishes between combatant and civilian, even as Hamas launches its missiles from behind these civilians for whose well-being Hamas is ultimately responsible. Moreover, Israel is justified in its campaign to safeguard the citizens of Israel, and to allow for the 80,000 internally displaced Israelis to return to their homes in the south.

Gaza is one of the most crowded territories in the world, making it extraordinarily difficult to fight in it without considerable  collateral casualties. Tragically, and unfortunately for the Palestinians in the Gaza strip, Hamas puts them intentionally in harm’s way. Hamas notoriously and intentionally positions its  headquarters, missiles, and tunnels in and below hospitals, schools, mosques, and other civilian facilities. Consequently, and according to international humanitarian law, these infrastructures become lawful and legitimate military targets when they lose their civilian nature.

This aim is strategic, both to discourage attack and to implicate Israel as responsible for civilian casualties, thus exerting international political pressure on Israel to cease its operations by painting the IDF’s military campaign as illegitimate. The most  prominent example is the construction of the main Hamas headquarters underneath the  central Shifa hospital.”

It is thus practically impossible for Israel to defend itself without aiming at Hamas targets that are deliberately interwoven with the civilian population. Israel is engaged in targeted and systematic attacks on specific Hamas combatant units, missile batteries, and the extensive 500 km underground tunnel-system stretching across the whole of the Gaza strip. This tunnel system, fortified with concrete, replete with electricity and fuel-powered  ventilation, was constructed by Hamas to shield over 30,000 terrorists.

According to the principle of proportionality, an attack against a military objective will be unlawful if the anticipated collateral damage to civilians and civilian objects would be excessive in relation to the military advantage expected from the attack. To eliminate Hamas’ military capabilities, Israel is forced to carry out massive successive strikes in the heart of the civilian population. Due to the very significant military advantage this would afford, even if a considerable number of civilians are harmed this does not by default mean that the attacks are disproportionate, and as such, an attack of this sort may be considered legal.

In conclusion

The claims that the Israeli offensive is indiscriminate, and deliberately wanton, are inaccurate, and skewed.

While I do not believe that the IDF is morally infallible. It is important to remember that Hamas is not a  peace-loving Palestinian victim and Israel’s goal is not to keep the Palestinian people under occupation. Rather, Israel’s enemy is a hostile, powerful, and cruel organization that seeks to  destroy it, and is ready to pay with the lives of its own people.

The Hamas terror organization is not concerned for the social welfare, nor for the freedom of Palestinians – it is sacrificing Palestinians to pursue its only goal-the annihilation of the State of Israel.

About the Author
Daniel Beaudoin is a retired Lt. Col. from the IDF, and the executive director of the European International Society for Military Ethics. He is an adjunct professor in political science at Tel Aviv University, and specializes in military ethics, the politics of humanitarian aid, and humanitarian crisis management.